Paul Lansky – Idle Fancies Keep Gwen Dease Busy

Paul Lansky has been creating an impressive catalog of percussion music since the 1990s. This release features three exceptional works for solo marimba, written for some exceptional performers.

“Three Moves” (1998) is the earliest (and most difficult) of the three works. Written for Nancy Zeltsman, the music hops across the broad expanse of a five-octave marimba in an easy-going fashion. These wide leaps are challenging to perform, but the end result is worth it. “Three Moves” is a jazzy tonal number that should appeal to most any listener.

In 2008 a consortium of percussionists commissioned “Idle Fancies,” a set of six preludes. Each of the short preludes focusses on a different aspect of marimba technique. Four of the preludes have the performer playing additional percussion instruments.

Sonically, those preludes almost sound like there are two performers. There’s nothing pedantic about the music, though. Whatever the technical problems set forth, Lanksy’s most concerned about the flow of the melody.

“Spirals” was commissioned by Lin chin Cheng in 2012. Lansky starts with a chromatic descending pattern that he expands and develops continually. The marimba is a naturally resonant instrument. The overlapping harmonies give the marimba a luminous quality.

Marimbist Gwendolyn Dease may not have commissioned any of these works, but she makes them her own. Dease’s playing has a fluid quality that makes these pieces come alive. She brings phrases and themes that might otherwise get buried in a flurry of notes. And she seems to get the essence of Lanksy’s music. Dease makes these works sound like they’re as fun to play as they are to listen to.

As a marimbist I appreciate her artistry. As a listener, I apprecitate Lansky’s compositional skill.

Paul Lansky: Idle Fancies
Gwendolyn Dease, marimba
Bridge Records 9454

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